The Rise of the Mobile Web

Web and mobile developers got a little surprise as 2015 came to a close: the mobile web rose again, driven by Google. First, Google announced it would begin penalizing websites that push mobile web traffic to download an app. Next, Android introduced new features that put mobile websites on par with native apps. Both announcements will impact the quality and use of the mobile web, positioning it as an archrival to proprietary native ecosystems.

Google published a case study in July examining user abandonment rates in installing the Google+ app, which had an interstitial landing page. The company found that 69% of users abandoned installing Google+ after landing on its interstitial landing page to download the app and encouraged developers to do the same. In September, Google announced that it would penalize websites that use interstitials, beginning November 1. The result is a more open and easily accessible mobile web experience.

Google also made it easier to use mobile websites the same way you use apps. It used to be arduous to pin a website to a mobile device’s home screen, but Google added a way to have a website suggest it’s an app and pop up on a mobile device’s screen the way a native app would. The mobile website saves to the home screen and runs as an app, so users have the same experience they would with a native app, but with no download required.

This has huge implications for mobile users all over the world: In Africa, 70% of mobile users browse websites from inexpensive mobile devices.

Mobile web user experience has greatly improved in the past several years, as mobile devices become more powerful and as web APIs and mobile browsers have improved, particularly in the last year. This makes it easier for the open web to compete with native, proprietary technology on mobile devices. Plus, organizations of all types (nonprofit, academic, start-up) can leverage the mobile web stack by building a single app that works on multiple devices and provides a mobile website, maximizing portability, developer accessibility, cost-effectiveness, and user experience.

The app stores are amazing, and so is the mobile web. They’re two different distribution channels, and according to Gartner, you need both.

In a 2014 blog post summarizing Gartner’s recommendations for the top ten mobile technologies and capabilities organizations should master by the end of 2016, Gartner Vice President and Analyst Nick Jones wrote:

“Most organizations will need application development tools to support a ‘3 x 3’ future — three key platforms (Android, iOS and Windows) and three application architectures (native, hybrid and mobile web). Tool selection will be a complex balancing act, trading off many technical and nontechnical issues (such as productivity versus vendor stability), and most large organizations will need a portfolio of several tools to deliver to the architectures and platforms they require.”

Ionic is the only option that lets you build cross-platform apps with one code base and build a mobile web app. We’ve expanded Ionic’s mobile web support to work on new mobile browsers and devices by adapting to the slightly different UI constraints added by mobile browsers.

We’re huge fans of the rise of the mobile web, and we’re excited to see where things go from here. 🚀